It’s no surprise that the exams during respiratory therapy school are difficult – they’re designed to challenge those who will be responsible for caring for the health of others. Class exams, practice exams, the NBRC board exams, you name it, they’re hard.

Testing well is not simply an issue of whether or not you know the material. Becoming a strong test taker is a skill that requires practice. While knowing how to study effectively (and actually studying) is indeed critical to doing well on exams, here are some tools to help you sharpen your test-taking sword.

1. Tame the anxiety

 

Yes, it’s easier said than done, but a calm and focused brain just simply tests better. Anxiety before a test is natural. In fact, a small amount of anxiety is beneficial. However, excess anxiety and a negative outlook can jeopardize your score.

There are actions that can be taken to help prevent anxiety from sabotaging your success on tests. Before sitting down to take the exam, make sure that you have a few quiet minutes to yourself to relax and clear your mind. Meditation is an effective way to relax your mind. If you’re strapped for time, close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. Make sure your mindset is positive. If not, change it. Affirmations are small mantras to focus on and repeat. Create a few simple affirmations for yourself, such as “this test is an opportunity to prove myself”.

It sounds “woo woo,” I get it. But trust me, it works.

2. Use the process of elimination

 

Most exam questions in respiratory therapy school and on the TMC board exam are multiple choice. It’s certainly easier having potential answers pre-written for you than writing essay questions and answering fill-in-the-blanks. However, multiple choice questions and answers are designed to be tricky.

How does one take advantage of multiple-choice testing? Through using the process of elimination. By eliminating answers that you are certain are wrong, you boost your chances of selecting the right answer. Four options gives you a 25% chance of choosing correctly at random. Eliminate one clearly wrong option from the list? Choosing between three options increases your odds of selecting the correct answer at random to 33%, and so on.

Using the process of elimination gives even an educated guess better odds at being the correct answer.

3. Time is of the essence

 

If there’s a question that you’re unsure about, put a mark next to the question, use the process of elimination to filter out any answers that you’re sure are incorrect, and move on to the next question.

That is the key – just move on!

Answer the questions that you feel confident in before spending time on more difficult questions, otherwise you may cheat yourself out of some points off of your exam grade. Leaving questions unanswered because you ran out of testing time guarantees you no points for those questions. Once you’ve answered the questions you find easy, return to the questions you marked earlier. You’ll be able to spend the remaining testing time answering them.

Occasionally, by doing this, you’ll also discover a hint to a question you were unsure of in another question. If testing time is nearly up and there isn’t much thinking time left to answer a few questions you found difficult, make an educated guess anyway. A 25% chance of choosing the correct answer at random is better than a 0% chance because no answer was marked.



4. Compare answers to one another

 

While this tip may seem obvious, the TMC board exam contains three different types of questions – recall, application, and analysis. What this means for you is that critical thinking is required, not memory alone. In other words, it’s not possible to skate by relying on simple memorization to pass the exam.

When applying the process of elimination to weed out incorrect multiple choice answers, pay special attention to answers that differ from the others. The answer that is unlike the others should draw your attention. The difference may be anything from a medication classification, type of intervention, or simply the way the answer is worded.

Once you’ve narrowed your options, review the question again and make sure you understand. The question may ask you to identify which answer is incorrect.

5. Identify the distracting answers

 

Multiple choice questions have “distractors”, which are incorrect answers intended to throw you off the correct answer. What is particularly tricky about some distractors is that these answers may not necessarily be incorrect statements when analyzed independently of the question. However, when compared to the question, the distractors will not answer the question correctly. To prevent choosing a distractor instead of the correct answer, always re-check your answer against the question. Does your answer really answer the question? There may be multiple statements that, while technically correct statements, do not answer the test question.

6. Practice does not always make perfect, but it certainly helps

 

Practicing with questions and answers that are exactly like the one’s you’ll see on your exams is extremely important. In fact, it’s one of the best strategies that we recommend to all of our students. You can learn and memorize the information all day long, but until you do repetition after repetition of mock questions, the information just isn’t likely to stick. 

Through practice questions, you can become more comfortable with the testing process and testing strategies. Becoming more familiar with the types of questions seen on the board exam will help you test quickly and more efficiently. There are many resources available that provide practice questions and practice tests. There are a few resources that we recommend you take advantage of:

For the exams within the respiratory therapy program, you are definitely going to want to take advantage of our Test Bank. It has each of your courses and subjects listed out so that you can easily navigate through and select the exam you are about to take. Then you will be able to practice with questions that you (probably) will see on your actual test.

The same thing applies for the TMC Board Exam as well. It’s crucial to practice mock exam questions. To do this, you can use our TMC Test Bank which has over 1000 questions and answers in the exact format of the actual board exam. The rationales explaining each question and answer are also included.

There are many resources available that provide practice questions and in tests including those mentioned above. Take advantage of help when it’s available to you. Never try to go at it alone and you’ll be on your way to acing your exams with ease.

Final thoughts

So after learning these tips and tricks, you now know how to be a good test taker in Respiratory Therapy school. I certainly get it, respiratory therapy school is a challenge. Hard work is necessary to succeed, both in school, and when preparing to take the board exam. That said, using these test-taking strategies will give you an edge when it comes time to prove your knowledge and skills.

Study effectively, practice, keep your cool, and you will succeed in RT school and beyond!